Tule is thrilled to have the author of the Big Sky Mavericks series, Debra Salonen, here with us on the release day of Montana Hero. Learn more about the research Deb did on a heart-wrenching subject for her latest Maverick story below.
Where did I put/leave my keys, purse, glasses, shoes, lipgloss, remote control…etc?
Perhaps because I’ve reached a certain age, these questions come up more often than I’d like. It’s only natural to worry when you forget to remember things that should be readily available in your brain. You may ask yourself: Is this a sign of a busy person with too much on her mind or an ominous hint of something bad to come?
I sincerely hope the former because in researching my heroine, Kat Robinson’s backstory for my new release, MONTANA HERO, I learned more about Alzheimer’s than I really wanted to know. Kat watched her mother and grandmother succumb to complications from the disease. Naturally, Kat’s worried that she, too, will fall victim to “Early Onset”–some call it, “Younger Onset”–Alzheimer’s. Like cancer, it’s hard to find somebody who hasn’t been touched by Alzheimer’s in some form or another.
When my grandmother came to live with us, I was a girl of fifteen. Grandma was eighty-nine. That’s not young, of course, but Grandma’s steady decline had been a source of worry for my mother for many years. As families did in those days, Mom and her siblings took turns caring for their mother. When it was our turn to host Grandma Bagby, I was excited by the “romantic” ideal of sitting by her knee as she told me stories of her childhood. Instead, I remember she cried a lot. And when I was able to coax a story or two from her, they were disconnected fragments that floated to the surface of her mind, out of context, usually sad, poignant moments that had remained frozen in her subconscious like miniature icebergs. Two children who drowned in the river, one trying to save the other. Her father–her rock–buried in the ground he’d donated to a town that no longer existed. Baby rattlesnakes–not worms–in a child’s pocket, discovered after he lay dead.
This tiny, hunched back woman evoked both sympathy and terror in my heart. Back then, doctors called her condition “Hardening of the Arteries.” Would I someday wind up like this? I asked my mother.
“If you live long enough,” was her answer.
And, in Mom’s case, she was right. When my amazing mother came to the end of her ninety-five-year old run, she, too, had morphed into a tiny, hunched back crone, still possessing scattered memories of a truly remarkable life, but having lost the ability to share them. Her doctors called her condition “dementia” and “old age.”
My heroine, Kat, is being as proactive as she can be to protect her mind, memories and health. So am I. The research I did for this book indicates progress is being made in identifying the cause of Alzheimer’s, but until a cure is found, families will continue to watch their loved ones disappear in plain sight.
My friend, the fabulous, bestselling author Sharon Sala, has shared the ongoing saga of her mother’s journey through this dark and mystifying disease on Facebook. No one can describe the raw pain and heartbreak of loss quite like Sharon. But, tell me, have you been touched by this disease in your life or do you know someone who has had to deal with Alzheimer’s cruel reality? I’d love to hear your story.
And, in case you’re wondering, Kat is a fighter, a the-glass-is-half-full sort of optimist, and she has too much to live for to let fear rule her life–especially after she meets my hero, Flynn Bensen.
In my case, I’m banking on reading to keep my mind alert…even if I can’t remember where I left my keys.